T.J.’s Takeaways from Thursday at the 2023 Knoxville Nationals

(l to r) Second place Kyle Larson, winner Carson Macedo, and third place Spencer Bayston. (Serena Dalhamer photo)

By T.J. Buffenbarger

KNOVILLE, Iowa (August 10, 2023) — After a thrilling night of racing from start to finish there is a lot to unpack as the first 16 starters in Saturday’s A-Main for the Knoxville Nationals are set. Here are my takeaways from the second night of racing.

  • Carson Macedo showed up at Knoxville Raceway with a black car with green flames on it. Macedo explained during the post-race press conference the scheme was showing respect to the Knoxville Raceway fire and safety crew that took care of Macedo after his terrifying crash and fire in June during a World of Outlaws race, but it also could be symbolic of Macedo rising from the ashes of that terrifying crash to conquer Knoxville Raceway during his first full night of competition back at the track since that accident.

    Macedo looks as on top of his game as he ever has been. We saw aggressive slide jobs, tremendous restarts, and able to hold at bay a surging Kyle Larson through multiple late race restarts for the sentimental victory, ringing everything the Jason Johnson Racing entry prepared by Phillip Dietz and crew had.

    One could not write a better storybook ending unless Macedo was able to pull off the victory on Saturday. If the last half of the 50-lap finale comes down to multiple restarts look for Macedo to make ground as his car was taking off as good or better than anyone else this weekend.

  • There might not be anything more fun to watch in sprint car racing right now than Rico Abreu having to pass a lot of race cars. After failing to transfer through his heat race and having to run the B-Main, a large crowd on hand for Thursday’s preliminary event at Knoxville got their money’s worth seeing Abreu look like he was playing Atari Pole Position passing cars at a rapid pace to charge from 21st to fifth, earning the outside pole position.

    This sets up a Kyle Larson/Paul Silva vs. Rico Abreu/Ricky Warner showdown for the Knoxville Nationals title on Saturday. Larson stated in the post-race press conference Thursday that he feels Abreu has been the fastest driver this summer in the sprint car world. Even though Larson has not competed much on half mile racetracks in Silva’s sprint car this season, he was able to overcome several miscues to finish second.

    The interesting aspect of a Larson/Abreu front row is how great both are at chasing down the leader. Saturday one of them will likely have to lead early in the main, and it will be interesting to see how the other counters.

  • The driver I feel has the best chance to upset the Larson/Abreu apple cart is Logan Schuchart. Schuchart brought the same car he won the Eldora Million with to Knoxville, but had to change out the engine before he feature. The new engine appeared to be just as strong as Schuchart positioned himself to earn the fourth starting spot in Saturday’s feature.

    Schuchart has been able to pass cars all season and is showing the same kind of speed that made me think he would win the Eldora Million for the first corner of practice. While most of the spotlight shined on Larson and Abreu on Thursday, do not sleep on Schuchart to make a lot of noise on Saturday.